Attending this year’s National Council for Teachers of English (NCTE) national conference was special for many reasons. For one, I missed last year’s conference, giving up my spot for another English teacher to attend from my school at the time. But certainly for another, reconnecting with scholars across the field, old friends, and, sure, that award did not hurt either. For this year’s reflection, I will share a few of the conference’s highlights for me.
I started my conference catching up with a few friends I had not seen a in a while. The chapter that was recently published is co-authored with Dr. Jennifer Dail and a former colleague, Glenn Rhoades. Dr. Dail happened to also serve on my committee for my doctorate. I caught up with her, Michelle Goodsite, and Dr. Heather Barton on the first morning of the conference where we sat around with some coffee and discussed a few on-going projects.
From there I had to see for myself the book, Engaging Literacy through Peritextual Analysis, on NCTE Central’s store shelf–a proud moment for sure.
I only really had a chance to see one session that morning, which presented research on valuing graphic novels and comics in the middle and high school ELA classroom, especially as representations for students who do not identify as white, straight, or male and to further discussion about representation of people in alternative texts.
Day two started with one of the better keynotes I have heard in a long time. Columbia University STEM professor Christopher Emdin spoke to hall of thousands, challenging the audience to question if we’re doing the revolutionary work necessary to teach in our modern times. Dr. Emdin makes me uncomfortable when I listen to him, which I love. He challenges my complacency and advocates for voices he knows are stifled. He is a dynamic and authentic speaker and scholar. I am still unpacking his speech, and I hope to write a post dedicated solely to parsing out his talk. Suffice to say, I walked out of that hall inspired, challenged, and ready to do the work.
My day rounded out with the awards luncheon where I met some stellar ELA teachers doing great work in their own schools. Part of me felt like traitor for no longer being in the ELA classroom myself. Having Dr. Dail at the luncheon with me helped remind me that I am still doing good work even outside of the typical classroom space. Besides accepting the award for Excellence in Teaching for high school, I truly enjoyed the luncheon’s keynote–a middle grades math teacher, Jose Vilson. Vilson spoke candidly of the direct connections he saw between teaching math and literacy. As an educator who sees the continued need to “un-silo” secondary teaching, I deeply appreciated his ideals and desire to help students see a bigger picture. I also appreciated his swagger. He was not afraid to promote himself or the work he is doing. While off-putting to a few, maybe, I loved seeing a current classroom teacher who also embraced being an entrepreneur.
In general, I caught up with several teachers and professors I had not seen in some time. I walked away completely in love with NCTE all over again and appreciative to be a part of such a progressive and responsive body of scholars, teachers, and administrators. I am already very much looking forward to next year in Baltimore.